Romania has been expelled from the Eurovision Song Contest, due to its national broadcaster failing to pay outstanding debts stretching back to 2007.
According to The European Broadcasting Union (EB) (via BBC News), who produce Eurovision, Romania's public service channel Televiziunea Romana (TVR) currently owes 16M Swiss francs. EBU told the Romanian government they were legally obliged to underwrite the broadcaster's debt, calling on them to make satisfactory arrangements for repayment by 20 April.
The country will thus not be allowed to take part in the 2016 contest taking place in Sweden, though Ovidiu Anton was set to perform "Moment of Silence". "Dear friends, I have finally received the official communication. I am trying to smile and not get carried away, but it is unfair," Anton wrote on Facebook. "I am still the same, same honest artist, same fighter that won fare [sic] and square both from the jury and from the public's vote, but yet, I have to declare I have been "defeated" By whom? Why? Fair? I don't know how to put it nicely, so I abstain."
The EBU director general Ingrid Deltenre stated, "It is regrettable that we are forced to take this action. We are disappointed that all our attempts to resolve this matter have received no response from the Romanian government."
"In recent weeks the EBU has taken note of the Ministry of Finance's suggestion that TVR may be placed into insolvency proceedings which may in turn lead to a profound restructuring of the broadcaster. The EBU is a not-for-profit association which represents 73 public service broadcasters in 56 countries. The continued indebtedness of TVR jeopardises the financial stability of the EBU itself."
"To take an act out at such late stage is of course a little disruptive, but it will not negatively affect the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest in any other way," said Jon Ola Sand, executive supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest. "It is, of course, disappointing - it's disappointing for the artist, for the fans, and for the viewers in Romania and all over Europe. But we have to stay firm on this decision, and I believe it was the right decision. And then we will have to see for 2017, and onwards, how this situation develops."
The decision also means TVR will lose access to EBU's other member services, including the Eurovision News and Sports News, including the right to broadcast several specific sporting events.
Romania has yet to win Eurovision since joining in 1994; with their highest placing being third, which they achieved in both 2005 and 2010. This is not the first instance of a country having been disqualified, however; Greece was disqualified in 1982 for entering a non-original song, based on a national folk tune, while Georgia was disqualified in 2009 for an entry supposedly containing political lyrics.
This year's Eurovision Song Contest takes place in Stockholm, on 12 May.
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